New Connacht coach dealt blow ahead of first season with Springbok star set to return home a year early
New Connacht coach Kieran Keane could be about to lose one of his capped players at the Sportsground with former Springbok Marnitz Boshoff set to return to South Africa a year ahead of schedule.
The 28-year-old was Connacht's marquee signing as they prepared to defend their Guinness Pro12 crown and while the former South African out-half had a severely disrupted season, it was hoped he would push on like Tyler Bleyendaal did in Munster.
But now it appears Boshoff may be about to depart just a season into a two-year deal, leaving new coach Kieran Keane with a significant hole in his squad to fill.
Connacht completed the signing of Boshoff in the middle of the 2015-'16 season, just before Pat Lam sprung Dublin-born AJ MacGinty from obscurity to become one of the key men in his side as they captured the Pro12 crown a year ago.
Lam spotted MacGinty playing for the USA in the World Cup but could not hold on to him last summer given that new signing Boshoff was also ineligible to play for Ireland. MacGinty signed for Sale after being released by Connacht last summer.
Boshoff missed the start of the defence of the Pro12 because he was still contracted to the Lions in South Africa and then injured his shoulder in December after just two appearances. He was due to return in March but suffered a personal tragedy when his father Jopie died after suffering a stroke while driving his car.
Boshoff went back to South Africa on compassionate leave and made two further appearances for Connacht when he returned to the Sportsground. It is understood that the loss of his father, whom he was very close to, is a key reason for his return to South Africa .
That leaves Connacht looking for an experienced out-half/centre as Keane takes over from Lam with several gaps to be filled in a squad which will play in the Challenge Cup next season.
Munster, after being forced to lose second-row Donnacha Ryan to Racing Metro, have now lost another key lock forward after South African Jean Deysel was snapped up by rivals Ulster on a two-year contract.
The 32-year-old South African will join from the Sharks Super Rugby franchise after being on a short-term loan with Munster.
Leinster, meanwhile, have confirmed that Leo Cullen will remain on as head coach for the next two years.
After a season that finished with semi-final defeats in both the Champions Cup and Guinness PRO12, the former Ireland international will remain on and it was also confirmed that senior coach Stuart Lancaster, as well as assistant coaches Girvan Dempsey and John Fogarty, have been retained.
"I think Leo deserves enormous credit for the way he has stepped up to the mark over the last two seasons," Leinster rugby CEO Mick Dawson said.